Nurses and staff members with the New York State Nurses Association rallied in Schenectady today. As WAMC’s Lucas Willard reports, the union is negotiating for new contracts at three local hospitals.
Outside Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, a line of demonstrators marched up and down the sidewalk.
“AMC and Ellis, Bellevue!”
“We are all united here!”
Nurses from Bellevue Woman’s Center, which operates under the Ellis Medicine umbrella, as well as Albany Medical Center joined the Ellis employees.
Judy Gonzales, President of the 40,000 member New York State Nurses Association, addressed the crowd with a megaphone.
“Are we having the resources that we need to take care of them here?”
“Are we having it at Bellevue?”
“Do we have it at AMC?”
“And that is the struggle that unites us all! From Buffalo to Brooklyn, from Albany to Schenectady…”
The union has been negotiating with Ellis since June, says Patty Donahue, NYSNA president at Ellis.
“And we gave the hospital a package, our last session, and we had 37 proposals in our package. And they said no to 25 of them. One of them was staffing,” said Donahue.
Staffing was the big priority, according to the nurses.
“You know, it’s a problem. If you think about a 12-hour nurse that has eight patients, how many hours a day is that with their patients? I mean, it’s less than an hour a day. Patients come to the hospital, it’s their most vulnerable time in their life, when they’re sick in the hospital, and they expect good care and the nurses want to give good care. But when there’s not enough staff, it’s really difficult.”
Marching alongside the demonstrators was Democratic New York State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who is a co-sponsor of the Safe Staffing for Quality Care Act, which if passed would set minimum staffing requirements for healthcare providers.
“We need to make sure that these nurses have the proper staffing to deliver the best healthcare possible. There’s nothing more important than that.”
Ellis Medicine provided WAMC with a statement by email, saying the hospital’s nurses and employees provide “an exceptionally high level of care and compassion to our patients and Ellis offers highly competitive wages and benefits in recognition of those skills and expertise.”
The hospital goes onto to say in part it respects the rights of its unionized nurses to picket as negotiations are ongoing, and that “we remain committed to bargaining in good faith with the goal of achieving a contract that is fair, competitive and financially feasible in today’s challenging healthcare environment.”
Albany Medical Center nurses recently joined the New York State Nurses Association and have also picketed while trying to reach a contract deal with that hospital.